More naval activity in Norway’s northernmost regions

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Commander of the Norwegian Fleet Commodore Henning Amundsen and Head of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters Lieutenant General Morten Haga Lunde on board "Thor Heyerdahl" in Kirkenes. (Jonas Karlsbakk/Barents Observer)
Commander of the Norwegian Fleet Commodore Henning Amundsen and Head of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters Lieutenant General Morten Haga Lunde on board “Thor Heyerdahl” in Kirkenes. (Jonas Karlsbakk/Barents Observer)
After years of focusing on international operations and phasing-in of new equipment, the Norwegian Navy is ready for more activity in the northernmost parts of the country.

This week Norway’s newest frigate “Thor Heyerdahl” took part in the “Joint Viking” exercise.

After years of focusing on international operations and phasing-in of new equipment, the Norwegian Navy is ready for more activity in the northernmost parts of the country. This week Norway’s newest frigate “Thor Heyerdahl” took part in the “Joint Viking” exercise.

“Joint Viking”, which includes units from the Army, Navy, Air Force and National Guard, started on March 9. The exercise takes place in the Western parts of Finnmark County, but on Wednesday the flag vessel “Thor Heyerdahl” visited the easternmost parts of the region, Kirkenes.

Commander of the Norwegian Fleet Commodore Henning Amundsen is very pleased with how the exercise has gone so far: “Finnmark is a great territory to train in when it comes to the challenging topography and climate. The vast areas give us lots of space to train both above and beneath water.”

This is the first time one of Norway’s new Nansen-class frigates moors in the port of Kirkenes. Norway has five frigates of this class, which were built at the Navantia Shipyard in Spain. The first one, “Fridtjof Nansen”, was commissioned in 2006, while the last vessel, “Thor Heyerdahl”, was commissioned in 2011.

Focus back to national interests

Since the first vessel of the Nansen-class frigates was commissioned in 2006, the Norwegian Navy has spent a lot of time educating personnel to operate the vessels and achieving the right level of qualifications and competence.  The vessels have also been occupied in international operations. “Fridtjof Nansen” participated in the EU’s counter-piracy campaign in the Gulf of Aden in 2009, and “Helge Ingstad” was involved in the transportation of chemical weapons out of Syria in 2013.

“We will see more naval activity along the coast of Norway in the time to come”, Commodore Amundsen says to BarentsObserver. “There was a big focus on international operations back then, but now the focus has returned to the national level. We are also going back to normal after years of out-phasing of old equipment and in-phasing of new.”

KNM "Thor Heyerdahl" in Kirkenes. (Jonas Karlsbakk/Barents Observer)
KNM “Thor Heyerdahl” in Kirkenes. (Jonas Karlsbakk/Barents Observer)
No threat to Russia

Head of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters Lieutenant General  Morten Haga Lunde believes Russian military authorities will not see it as a threat that Norwegian vessels are sailing so close to the border. “As I have learned to know the Russians through our cooperation with the Northern Fleet and with FSB in Murmansk, I believe they will look at this type of activity as completely normal. I think they would be more surprised if we didn’t train here. “

“For me it is completely normal that we are operating with our vessels along the whole coast of Norway, all the way to Kirkenes. It is important for us to know the whole coast when it comes to navigation, climate and other issues. Northern Norway has some special challenges that differ from the southern parts of the country,” Lunde says to BarentsObserver.

The military cooperation between Norway and Russia has been on a minimum since Norway suspended all bilateral military activities with Russia in March 2014. This freeze in relations will continue throughout 2015.

But collaboration will continue in Coast Guard, Border Guard and search-and Rescue activities as well as the workings of the Incidents at Sea Agreement.

“My headquarters’ cooperation with FSB Coast Guard and Border Guard continues as before. Our relationship is characterized by mutual respect, “Lunde says. “There are professionals working on both sides, and we don’t discuss politics when we meet, we discuss our professional sphere.”

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: (Video) Canadian Rangers – The Watchers, Radio Canada International

Finland: Finland to participate in NATO crisis management exercises, YLE News

Norway: Norway and Russia join forces in Arctic response drill, Barents Observer

Russia:  More marines for Russia’s Northern Fleet, Blog by Mia Bennett

Sweden: Sweden’s government scared of NATO facts: Moderates Party, Radio Sweden

United States:  U.S. needs Arctic military strategy says defense secretary, Alaska Public Radio Network

 

 

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